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Phosphate mining propelled Nauru, the world's smallest independent republic, into seemingly boundless wealth for decades. But phosphate's running out and the Nauru leadership is making little effort to strike up other industries (other than refugee housing for the Australian government). Nauru is an extraordinarily grey island, whose natural beauty has been pretty much destroyed by the ecological nightmare of phosphate mining. Not surprisingly, tourism hasn't exactly taken off.
However, travellers around the Pacific may find themselves delayed in Nauru for a few days, due to Air Nauru's clever monopoly of the area. If golf isn't your thing, we recommend heading away from shore and trying out some of the island's better diving spots, where WWII wreckages make for a captivating dive.
Before the Europeans arrived to Nauru, the island was inhabited by colonists from other parts of Oceania. The first European to set foot on Nauru was the English Whaler, John Fearn, but Nauru kept its independence until 1888, when it was annexed by Germany. in 1918 it became a member of the League of Nations, governed by Australia. In 1947 it made a deal with the United Nations that it would become independent in 1968. It became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and in 1999 it joined the United Nations. As mentioned in the introduction the winning of phoshpates made Nauru a wealthy country, but it also had a huge impact on nature. Two third of the island has a lunar surface like look. Alternatives for the ending supplies of phosphates have not been succesful. Tourism which is an option for many others islands is not (yet) a big contributor to the economy of the island.
Nauru is a 21 square kilometres oval-shaped island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, 42 kilometres south of the Equator. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, which is exposed at low tide and dotted with pinnacles. The presence of the reef has prevented the establishment of a seaport, although channels in the reef allow small boats access to the island. A fertile coastal strip 150 to 300 metres wide lies inland from the beach. Coral cliffs surround Nauru's central plateau. The highest point of the plateau, called the Command Ridge, is 71 metres above sea level. The only fertile areas on Nauru are on the narrow coastal belt, where coconut palms flourish. The land surrounding Buada Lagoon supports bananas, pineapples, vegetables, pandanus trees, and indigenous hardwoods such as the tomano tree.
Nauru was one of three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean (the others were Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia). The phosphate reserves on Nauru are now almost entirely depleted. Phosphate mining in the central plateau has left a barren terrain of jagged limestone pinnacles up to 15 metres high. Mining has stripped and devastated about 80% of Nauru's land area, and has also affected the surrounding Exclusive Economic Zone; 40% of marine life is estimated to have been killed by silt and phosphate runoff.
Nauru is not the number one beach destination in the Pacific, to say the least. And the waters are pretty rough for diving and snorkelling as well. Going out for fishing sometimes is possible. Still, Anibare Bay is the best beach on Nauru. It is the ideal place to enjoy the sun, swim in the relative tranquil waters or just be lazy. Fishing is another option which is especially good off the coast of the island because of unusual deep waters compared to other Pacific islands.
Command Ridge is the highest point of Nauru. This is the place where the Japanese kept watch in the 1940s and nowadays you can still find some rusted WWII guns, including two large rotating six-barrel weapons that once fired 40 kilograms of shells. Further, you will find a communications bunker which you can enter if you have a flashlight or lantern. If you look closely you will even see some Japanese writing.
The view from the ruins of the once-splendid former Presidents' House is just fantastic. Unfortunately, the house itself was burned down in 2001 by a local mob who were not happy with the mismanagement of fund by the government. urious at the government's mismanagement of funds.
Being a very small capital, there is not much to do in town itself. Still, just off the coast of Yaren there is some excellent deepsea-diving (one of a few places possible on Nauru) where you can find canons and bunkers dating back to WWII.
Nauru has a tropical climate with humid and warm conditions year-round. The average maximum temperatures are around 30 °C to 32 °C degrees Celcius, while temperatures during the night are still a balmy 24 °C or 25 °C degrees during most night. The wet season lasts from November to February, but duing the last years the wet season has varied a lot and sometimes there was even a draught period. Generally, from April to October things are drier and sunnier and the easterly trade winds cool things off a bit.
The international airport is in Yaren and the national airline is called Our Airline, also known as Air Nauru. Currently, there is only one aircraft serving the route from Brisbane to Nauru via Honiara (Solomon Islands) and from Nauru on to Tarawa (Kiribati) and Majuro (Marshall Islands) twice weekly.
There is absolutely no way of getting here by boat, there are even no yacht facilities so if you make it here, you will only see the island from a distance!
There is an 18-kilometre-long sealed road circumnavigating the island. As there is no public transport on Nauru, you will need to negotiate car or bike hire with a local or perhaps pay a local to take you where you need to go. If you want to head inland, there are a few roads that lead towards the Buda District, the lagoon and the mining areas.
Visas before arrival are recommended and a valid passport is also required.
See also Money Matters
Nauru uses the Australian Dollar (AUD). Australian Dollar notes come in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 and coins come in 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1 and $2.
The official language is Nauruan, a distinct Pacific Island language. English is widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes.
There are two hotels, the more expensive Menen on the east of the island and the budget Od'n Aiwo to the west.
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Nauru. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Nauru) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Nauru. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against hepatitis B is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Like many other Pacific Islands, Nauru is surrounded by a shallow reef with cut-outs through the reef providing access for boats and harbours, and there can be strong currents across the shallow water, moving boats in the harbours, and dangerous marine animals on the reef floor. Ask for advice before venturing into the water.
See also International Telephone Calls
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